URBI ET ORBI
Christmas Day, 25 December 1997
1. "The earth has seen its Saviour".
Today, Christmas Day, we
live to the full
the truth of these words: the earth has seen its Saviour.
first to see him were the shepherds of Bethlehem
who, at the words of the
hastened with joy to the poor cave.
It was night, a night
charged with mystery.
What did they see before them?
A Child placed in a
and at his side, lovingly, Mary and Joseph.
They saw a child but,
enlightened by faith,
in this fragile creature they recognized God made man
they offered him their poor gifts.
Thus they began, without realizing it,
that hymn of praise to Emmanuel, God come to dwell amongst us,
from generation to generation.
The joyous canticle, the
heritage of all
who today journey in spirit to Bethlehem,
the birth of the Lord,
and praise God for his marvellous works.
unite ourselves in faith to them
in this unique encounter of praise
is traditionally renewed every year at Christmas,
here in St Peter's Square,
and which concludes with the blessing
which the Bishop of Rome imparts Urbi
Urbi: to this City which, thanks to the ministry
of the holy
Apostles Peter and Paul,
has "seen" in a unique way
Saviour of the world.
Et Orbi: to the whole world
in which the Good News of salvation
spread far and wide,
to the very ends of the earth.
The joy of
Christmas has thus become
the heritage of countless peoples and nations.
truth, "all the ends of the earth
have seen the salvation of our God"
(Ps 97 :3).
2. To all, therefore, is addressed the message of today's solemnity.
are called to share
in the joy of Christmas.
"Acclaim the Lord all
cry out and exult with songs of joy" (Ps 97 :4).
is a day of extraordinary gladness!
This gladness has penetrated people's
and has been expressed in many different ways
in the history and
culture of Christian nations.
It has found an echo in liturgical and popular
in painting, literature and every field of art.
For the Christian
formation of whole generations
such traditions and songs,
and, above all, the crib
are of great importance.
The canticle of the
angels at Bethlehem
has thus found a universal and varied echo
customs, attitudes, cultures of every age.
It has found an echo in the heart
of every believer.
3. Today, a day of joy for all,
a day filled with so many calls for
peace and brotherhood,
more intense and sharp become the imploring cries
of peoples who long for freedom and harmony,
in situations of
disturbing ethnic and political violence.
Today there resound more strongly
of those who give themselves generously
to breaking down
barriers of fear and aggression,
promoting understanding between peoples
different origins, colour and religious creeds.
Today there appear more
tragic to us
the sufferings of peoples fleeing
to the mountains of
their own land
or seeking a safe haven on the coasts of neighbouring
in order to pursue the faint hope of a less precarious and more
More distressing today is the tense silence
ever growing multitude of the new poor:
men and women without work and
infants and children injured and violated,
enlisted in the wars of adults,
young victims of drugs
or attracted by
Today is Christmas Day, a day of confidence for peoples
who have finally come back to meet one another and talk.
are often timid and fragile prospects,
slow and tiring dialogues,
animated by the hope
of eventually reaching agreements
which respect the
rights and duties of all.
4. It is Christmas! This straying humanity of ours
the Third Millennium,
awaits You, o Child of Bethlehem,
who come to
manifest the love of the Father.
You, the King of Peace, invite us today to
and you open our hearts to prospects of hope.
For this reason
"let us sing to the Lord a new song
for he has worked wonders"
(cf. Ps 97 : 1).
Behold the greatest wonder worked by God:
himself became man, he was born on Christmas night
he offered his life for
us on the Cross,
he rose on the third day according to the Scriptures
through the Eucharist he remains with us
to the end of time.
In truth "...
the Word became flesh
and dwelt among us" (Jn 1:14).
The light of
faith enables us to recognize
in the new-born Child
the eternal and
Of his glory we become witnesses.
Almighty though he was
clothed himself in extreme poverty.
This is our faith, the faith of the
which enables us to confess the glory of the only-begotten Son of
even if our eyes only see the man,
a Child born in the stable at
God made man lies here today in the manger
and silently the universe
May humanity recognize him as its Saviour!